George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education: Symposium in Honor of William R. Robinson

Organizer: Marcy Towns, Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, tel: (765) 496-1574, Email: mtowns@purdue.edu (Invited only)

Marcy Towns organized the 2010 Pimentel Award Symposium. To celebrate Bill’s achievements the symposium began with a retrospective of the field of chemical education research presented by George M. Bodner. Doug Mulford described the item response theory research he has carried out with the Robinson and Mulford Chemistry Concepts Inventory instrument. Lisa Lockwood, a senior editor at Cengage Publishing described the past, present, and future of chemistry textbook publishing to the delight of the audience. Cengage is the sponsor of the ACS Pimentel Award and we were delighted that she could join us for a presentation.

Ilene Alford was a master’s student of Bill’s who went on to become a senior forensic scientist for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Ilene described her multiple roles as a forensic scientist and outlined the requirements for obtaining a forensic science degree. Ken Lyle discussed a case-study of a pre-professional student’s experiences in learning chemistry. More than forty factors contributed to her difficulties learning chemistry were identified and were attributed to the chemistry-learning context, outside of course influences, and the participant herself. Several factors encouraged her to adopt surface approaches resulting in a partial, fragmented understanding of concepts. David Treagust discussed his work in diagnosing students' conceptions in chemistry across a range of topics using specially designed two-tier instruments.

Finally, Bill Robinson gave the 2010 Pimentel Award Address to the audience. Bill highlighted many of the ways we (as a community of faculty) think about teaching and learning. He used data collected in his own research to demonstrate how practices have changed and to challenge assumptions.